Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I do not just mean taking a hard fall where you lose your breath for a second or two. What I am talking about is enduring an impact that is so jolting that your ability to breathe is completely gone for about twenty to thirty seconds. It happened to me only once in my life and the memory of it will always be with me. I was about ten years old and was standing at the top of the flight of stairs at our house with my pajamas on and I was also wearing socks. The reason that it is important to mention the socks is because the stairs were hard wood floors which were very slippery when one was wearing socks and no shoes. Did I mention that I was also holding a jump rope in my hands? This is already beginning to sound like trouble isn’t it? Yes, my daring and brilliant brain had decided that I was going to attempt to jump rope down the stairs one step at a time. I began twirling the rope over my head and successfully jumped down one step, then another. As I began to hop through the twirling rope to jump down to the third step however something went very wrong. My right foot got caught in the down swing causing me to trip and my both of my feet simultaneously flew up in the air in much the same fashion that the old time movies would show some poor unsuspecting character slip on a banana peel. All I remember is flying up in the air and then landing on the front edge of the hard wood step on the middle of my upper back. It all happened so incredibly fast that I was stunned and dazed but the absolute worst part of it all was as I started to try to sit up, I could not breathe. I tried to take a breath a second time but again experienced nothing. Thankfully my dad was sitting within sight of me in the living room and immediately came rushing over to the steps and sat down and gathered me up in his arms, sitting me on his lap. I tried to take a breath a third time and again, I was not able to take in any air at all. When that happened I shifted into all out panic mode and looked at my dad’s face as I began to cry and mouth words and make motions to him that I could not breathe. I will never forget his calm, measured response. He just said very softly in the most reassuring  voice “ I know…just relax…your breath will come back…it’s okay” For the next twenty seconds or so as I still could not get air and as I continued to become more hysterical within myself, he kept up the slow, soft spoken words telling me that I was going to be okay and would soon get my air back. He was right as I finally began to get little bits of air.  After about thirty seconds I was beginning to be able to take normal breaths in the midst of my sobbing. That incident was so frightening and traumatizing to me that I have often thought about it over the course of my lifetime. Every time I saw a kid get stampeded on a soccer field or run over in a football game and the announcer said “ Looks like he got the wind knocked out of him…” my mind would flash back to those steps and that jump rope. What has also been forever etched in my memory however was my strong, calm dad soothing me with his slow and reassuring voice telling me that I would make it, that I was going to be okay.

 

        Life also has a way of knocking the wind out of us, does it not? Just like those socks on those steps and that jump rope in my hand, it can throw some circumstances at us that slam us on our backs seemingly unable to catch our breath. If you are reading this and you find yourself having a hard time relating to or comprehending what I am saying, count your blessings but also hold on because sooner or later, we all experience something so hurtful, so crushing that we simply do not know how we will go on. For me, it was my mother’s sudden and totally unexpected death when I was still a teenager. Watching that same big, strong dad standing in front of me with a tear rolling down his right cheek choking out the words “ Mom’s gone” is a moment that smashed my heart, changed my life and yes, took my breath away. From the minute that I learned that news, the whole world seemed different. I did not have that carefree, comfortable, “it’s all going to be okay” feeling that my dad was whispering to me on those steps about nine years earlier. I so wanted my dad to be able to make it all alright just as he had when I was little but I learned very quickly that life’s crushing moments are just not as simple and as easily remedied as was my jump rope fiasco.

 

        There are numerous events that have the force to utterly crush and turn one’s world upside down. It may be the tragic death of a child, a cancer diagnosis, an injury that permanently maims or disfigures a loved one, or a betrayal by someone you love. Our home may be destroyed or our child is involved in a serious crime or God forbid, our child may be the victim of some sort of abuse. The list of life altering situations that we can and may experience is a very long one. The probability is high that each of you reading this will most likely have to face something during the course of your life that will outright flatten you. It is not something that you will expect nor is it something that you can specifically prepare yourself for. I remember sitting in my dad’s kitchen with him the night that my mom died and him looking at me and saying “Baby, life just can throw you a curve ball sometimes, can’t it?” That was his way of talking… he had a vast number of folksy type quips and expressions that correctly described the complexities of life. There was so much that my dad was right about but on that night I also asked him a crucial question later that same evening out on our front porch that he ended up being very wrong about. Having just lost my mom and not knowing what lies ahead for us after we exit this world, I looked up at my dad who in my eyes was all knowing, all wise and I said “Dad, is there a heaven?” He paused for a moment and answered   “You know honey, a lot of people will tell you that they are sure of a God and heaven, but no one absolutely is certain because none of us on this side have crossed over yet to whatever is on that other side , have we?” It was a flat out honest answer and although it was not comforting, it made sense to me at that time. I was satisfied for the time being. Over the course of the next three years however, I began a journey and a quest to know the truth and the answer to this question and I discovered through reading the Bible for the first time in my life, that there is most definitely a heaven awaiting us if we know Christ. I became a Christian at the age of twenty-one and that decision for the Lord has affected my life in ways that I could not have predicted at the time of my conversion. It has made sense of a senseless world and has explained my purpose for being born and having the opportunity to live my life. The Bible clearly tells us that the reason we are here is to glorify God with our lives and if we can realistically grasp a hold of this all important truth, it will help us immensely in those times that life knocks the wind right out of us. It will motivate us to hold on, to press on and to have a testimony that shows others that God is real and that He will sustain us even when we are crying and groaning inside. The unsaved man, the unbeliever must stumble and plod through this unpredictable world viewing his life through a lens that reflects a random and haphazard picture. All that happens is out of control, meaningless and there is no real true source of knowledge or comfort. I have no idea how the unbelieving soul maintains and functions in this every confused and twisted world. I am grateful that I learned and believed the truth in my early twenties that there is a God, He does care, He is all knowing, and He is in complete control. He does not cause sin and suffering but He is there to pick us up when we are gasping for air. Like my father on those steps, He will gather us in His arms, hold us, and reassure us when we are screaming inside and feeling nothing but anguish. It is in these times of trauma in which we discover within ourselves whether our faith is genuine and real.

 

        Perhaps someone you know may be struggling for air right now. Perhaps their heart has been smashed and they cannot get their breath. If they are utterly broken, you yourself do not have the words or the wisdom to make it okay but there is a father that does. He is our father in heaven and His comfort and embrace is even more valuable than that of an earthly father sitting on a step with a daughter and a jump rope. Offer that friend up to Him today in prayer and ask Him to hold him or her close, and to strengthen and encourage their spirit. Pray that He will speak soft words of comfort to that dear person and reassure them that in time and with Him, hope is not gone.

 
        
Life and people are unpredictable, but our God is not. He is constant, steady, and will hold tight to you and those that you love when we are without breath. He will soothe and talk softly and in time, will heal the hurt. Reach out to Him and ask Him for help. My own dad did in the final months of his life when he was dying with cancer. He made a decision for the Lord about two months before his death. It was just he and I in the bedroom of his house when he died. In the last few hours of his life he kept mumbling “Thy Will Be Done” over and over. He was unconscious for the last minutes of his life and the irony of it all is that I was the only one with him when he took his last breath. I had crawled into that bed with him, pulled him close and held him in my arms just like he had done for me on those steps so long ago . The only difference was that back then I was trying to take a breath and now, here he was breathing his last. The beauty of it is that he is in heaven with God the Father as I write this.

 

``Yes, Life can knock the wind out of us, but God can give it back. Trust Him, Lean on Him, Love Him and you will catch that breath once again.